Numbers 5-7, Psalm 41
Growing up in Brooklyn, the vows flew freely. People would swear on their mother's grave (usually their mother was still alive), on a stack of Bibles, on the willingness to give up a prized possession like baseball cards or their Big Mac. All the while these things were offered because the vows were meaningless. Lying and not going through with what was promised was commonplace. Nothing much has changed as we have aged. With a divorce rate of around 50%, how seriously do most take their marriage vows, where one promises, "to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance...". Lying in a court of law after putting their hand on the Bible is common. Today, we read about the Nazarite vow. God did not command it; it was purely voluntary. But if any of His people wanted a closer walk with Him, this is what they could do. If the vow was voluntarily taken, God expected it to be honored.
The Nazarite vow as described in Numbers 6 consisted of three things: a separation from wine and similar drink, not allowing a razor to touch his hair, and not going near any dead body. The purpose of the vow is clearly stated in Numbers 6:2, then repeated throughout, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazarite, to separate himself to the Lord,". The whole point of this vow was to find his joy in the Lord. Realize the priestly ministry was given to the Levites exclusively, but through this vow, every man or woman from every tribe was given the opportunity to seek the Lord radically. People often state that their walk with God is non-existent since they came from a household that did not honor God. But like this vow, anyone despite their circumstances or past could take this vow. According to rabbinical tradition , the length of the usual Nazarite vow was for one month, but could last a year, or even a lifetime (as was the case for Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist). The vow was expensive, when you read the list of animals required for the final sacrifice. We read in Acts 21:24, that Paul took the vow, and paid the expenses for four others. We read in Numbers 6:9, "And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing;...". This means that if on day 29 of a 30 day vow this happened you would have to start over again. While this may seem unfair, this actually gives the person a second chance. Aren't we glad that God gives us second and third and fourth, etc. chances. Notice even if the death involved his own mother and father (Numbers 6:7), he was not to make himself unclean. We read in Matthew 10:37-38, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take this cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:37, that our walk and talk should be such that a vow would be unnecessary, "let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'." J. Vernon McGee summarizes this section with a good application: "Do you find your joy in the Lord? Are you willing to bear shame for Him, to take a humble place for Him? Are you willing to put Him first, above everything in this life? You see, although the believer today doesn't take a Nazarite vow, there is the offer of a closer walk with the Lord. It is voluntary. You must want it. It is an act of dedication...Actually , what we do is come to God with empty hands, offering nothing but ourselves to Him-our devotion, our worship, our love, our service, our time. Sometimes when you stand for God, you will find you must stand alone. He must be first in your life." We live in a nation in which the church is not persecuted terribly but is complacent. This luke-warm devotion which most have is why we don't see revival in our midst. Many state they want revival, but are we willing to separate ourselves from the world which pulls us in another direction? We say Christ first, all else second. Can you imagine the revival, if we actually meant this and lived it accordingly.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: